Dreaming of Margaritaville: a Nightmare
Civility’s extinction was predictable.
Actually, uncivility is a legacy passed down to us from our founders, especially those who, through the informal rules under which the Continental Congress operated, virtually demanded that our “democracy” operate on the basis of calumny, distortion and blatant lies; not unexpected given the fact that to some extent, Athenian “democracy” was our model. Historically, it seems the only periodic difference involved just how blatant our lack of political civility was.
Many of us were extremely critical of the lack of civility demonstrated by the right wing of the GOP with respect to former President Barrack Obama, what with all the birther issues and racial innuendo, but looking back, that now seems a calm and gracious era, albeit only in contrast. The truth is, political civility has been in a consistent decline since the end of the Eisenhower era and the present has been a-long-time-a-building. There is a strong possibility that the verisimilitude of democracy under which this country has always purported to live may be about to implode and one wonders whether this two hundred and forty year old era of more and more blatant hypocrisy, almost a quarter of a millennium, will really be worth mourning.
Perhaps not. After all, our uncivility would have been a price worth accepting if it had been accompanied by decent government, artfully balancing collective and individual interest in a manner competently providing for the common welfare, for equity and justice, for a tolerable degree of liberty and for a decent facsimile of security. Perhaps that would have been even more important than participatory rights we refuse to exercise.
The real collective decisions facing us involve what might replace our current bipolar political dysfunction. On the one hand, a stranglehold over power by a tiny minority that controls our mainstream media, economy and instruments of governance with a fierce capacity to defend its interests, either camouflaged as legal or constitutional processes or naked power, and, on the other, by disinterested masses clamoring for bread and circuses, not interested in fulfilling their critical roles in political processes but all too expert at bewailing the consequences of their inactions.
These are the conditions that lead decent, well-meaning people, talented, creative people with strong ethics and great intentions to consider means of governance that more honestly limit our illusion of popular participation, all too frequently ignoring history’s lessons which demonstrate that autocratic or oligarchic governments also eventually fall prey to self-interest and to the same old governmental paradigms. History seems to tell us that we are always led by self-serving oligarchies, the only difference being how interested some are to grant us the courtesy of deceiving us.
Not exactly an optimistic vision for our future but, as Jimmy Buffett might sing to us while sipping margaritas:
“It’s our own damned fault”.
© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2017; all rights reserved